The 70-odd university presses in the U.S. now publish around 1,300 books a year. Most of these are of decidedly limited interest, with such titles as Sound and Form in Modern Poetry, published by the University of Michigan Press. Lately, however, the professors appear to have discovered sport. Here are some examples from this season's lists:
Hounds and Hunting in Ancient Greece by Denison Bingham Hull (Chicago, $15). An architect and Greek scholar, Denison Hull first rode to hounds at the age of 40, became a Master of Foxhounds at 43 and made new translations of Greek texts on hunting when he discovered that previous translators had no practical hunting experience. The result is a valuable contribution to hunting lore, covering hunting practices in ancient Greece that were very much like present-day beagling. Laconian hounds were the size of very large beagles, had a bold, confident manner, black, sparkling eyes and bore such names as Vital, Havoc, Impulse, Cheerful, Bright Eye and Blossom.
The Great Arc of the Wild Sheep by James L. Clark (Oklahoma, $6.95). The famous sculptor and taxidermist of the American Museum of Natural History here traces the stamping grounds—from Sardinia through Turkey and Iran into Asia, and from Alaska through the Rockies—of "the keenest-eyed, wariest and most cunning of all big game." A miscellany and gazetteer combined, the book includes scientific data, hunting anecdotes, record head measurements and casual, offhand recollections of the author's own hunts long ago in the Russian Pamirs, the Himalayas and Mongolia.
The Birds of Arizona by Allan Phillips, Joe Marshall and Gale Monson (Arizona, $15). One of the most beautiful of recent bird books, this is illustrated with 51 magnificent color photographs by Eliot Porter and 12 delicate field sketches in color by George Miksch Sutton. The authors, naturally, write most of species found only in the Southwest, like the quaint little red-faced warbler. But so many birds winter in Arizona that the book is also a good guide to most American species.
March 8, 1965
John James Audubon by Alice Ford (Oklahoma, $7.95). In 1917 Francis Herrick published a massive two-volume biography which guardedly replaced with facts many of Audubon's audacious fictions about himself. Professor Herrick did so scrupulous a job that later students hesitated to deal with Audubon's career, though mysteries still remain. Alice Ford's book is the first complete biographical study since Herrick's. It includes new material she discovered in France on Audubon's father and foster mother, and episodes from Audubon's storekeeping days in Kentucky. Alice Ford is altogether admiring in her view of Audubon, but she resolutely includes facts about her hero that Audubon's many enemies did not print. The result is a highly feminine volume, sentimentalized but unsparing.
The Field Notes of Captain William Clark, edited by Ernest Staples Osgood (Yale, $12.50). A newly discovered journal by the captain of the Lewis and Clark expedition may seem a long way from sport, but in fact the first 1,600 miles of the journey from St. Louis to the Pacific was a sporting event on a majestic scale. Clark had an eye for flavorsome details, recording hunting exploits almost every day—a total of 77 deer, 11 bear and one elk killed between May 19 and July 22, and deer tracks on the prairie "as plentiful as hogs on a farm." No slaughter addict, he liked to watch the young deer feeding on the willows and playing along the sandy beaches of the Missouri. He reported on wild plums, crabapples, wild cherries, grapes, hazelnuts and raspberries, and commented, "What a field for...a natirless"—his way of spelling naturalist. On Christmas Day he wrote, "The men frolicked and hunted all day. Several Turkeys killed." But he was also a hard, farsighted military man, and among these papers, lost for almost 150 years, were the plans that he and Meriwether Lewis worked out for the defense of the West. Discovered in an attic in St. Paul, Minn. in 1953, his lost journal has been made into a book that is unrivaled for its appearance and the balance and humor of its comments.
Down the Colorado by Robert Brewster Stanton (Oklahoma, $5). In 1889 a Denver businessman named Frank M. Brown promoted a daring transcontinental railroad that would thread its way through the Rockies on water-level grades along the Colorado and through the Grand Canyon. As the first survey party entered the Grand Canyon itself, Brown and two companions were drowned. His chief engineer, Robert Stanton, was so convinced that Brown was right that he led another party through at his own expense. This was the first expedition after that of John Wesley Powell to go all the way through the Grand Canyon. Stanton found the Colorado a wonderland of deer, geese, ducks, fish, waterfalls, springs, hidden glens, cliff dwellings, awesome colors and shapes, and innumerable rapids, each of which he detailed with almost Proustian exactitude. He became a prominent engineer, but remained so embattled about the Colorado railroad route that he wrote a book on his survey (unpublished) and a two-volume history of the river (also unpublished), from which this absorbing narrative has been extracted.